In my work as a librarian I came across this amazing site, which is thought provoking and alternately heartbreaking or amusing, though much too much more the former.
The way it works is a bit like a semi inflated balloon in ones hands. If you compress one part of the balloon another part of the balloon must get larger. If you squeeze several parts, other parts get larger or smaller respective to the amount of the pressure exerted on them. And, many of us know from experience, if one puts too much pressure on any one area, the whole thing simply explodes (but that is a metaphor that deserves consideration in greater depth later).
However, in the brightly colored maps on the site, country sizes balloon or deflate depending upon whatever statistic is being measured, whether that be the amount of a resources consumed by countries respectively or “the proportion of all people living on US$10 purchasing power parity or less a day worldwide,” as the map at the top of this post shows. Worldmapper has a detailed page for each concept being considered and also printable pdf page, which sometimes provides even more information. If you take even a little time to look at the map above, you can begin to see why I included “break your heart” in the title of this post.
But there are many maps which are even more stark in the information they convey.
Here is one one on deaths from drought…
…and deaths from malaria…
Are you beginning to get the picture.
Well, I thought it might be an interesting and mutually edifying exercise if we together mined these maps (there are 366 of them) and used them to spark discussion. Very usefully, each map is numbered and has a link which can be incorporated in a comment when one is making a point.
Here is an example (which admittedly is supplemented by the image below which cannot be done in the comments field of this blog):
“Map 58 shows which country seems to be the largest importer of toys…and map 57 shows where they are all coming from!”
Of course, you would not have to make a comparison. You could comment on a single map that got you thinking or weeping or walking, and why it did so.
Worldmapper (which has gotten a lot of press) very conveniently gives you several options in which the maps are categorized.
And if discussions arise around a country or topic, I will add them to the tag cloud of this post and hopefully attract more participants.
Finally, this site assumes basic geographical knowledge to appreciate it fully, but I think it would be a great teaching tool for subjects of all sorts, geographic and scientific and social, just to name a few, as were the Earth Lights sites here and here, which tell us a great deal about geography, privilege, and freedom. Not convinced? Just take a gander at North and South Korea.
Well, I cannot exactly say “happy traveling,” but I do hope it may be profitable, thoughtful traveling.
P.S. This site and mapping technology was created at the University of Sheffield in England, so it should be reliable.